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Mainstream, VOL LII No 27, June 28, 2014

Democratic Rights in India

Saturday 28 June 2014, by Mukul Dube

“ ‘The next government may adopt a muscular and hawkish approach to internal security...,’ said a senior official [of the Ministry of Home Affairs].” (The Hindu, May 20, 2014, page 10) As bureaucrats tend to be overly cautious, the fact that this statement was made should tell us something.

The catch-phrase “internal security” is a catch-all. It can include anything and everything. It cannot be defined, neither precisely nor even vaguely. The Intelligence Bureau’s report on NGOs and foreign funds must be seen in this light. As Indira Gandhi could pull out of her conjurer’s hat both external and internal emergencies, so can those poor citizens be described as a threat to India‘s economy who do not want their lands to be taken over by mammoth mining corporations.

Four years ago I wrote: “P. Chidambaram [had] his Home Ministry issue a statement—or warning or declaration of intent—saying that those who speak up for the Maoists, or who express sympathy with them, will invite action under the Unlawful Activites (Prevention) Act, a singularly obscene threat in a country which calls itself a democracy.” (http://www.mainstream weekly.net/article2091.html)

To me it seems that the previous government was “muscular and hawkish” enough. The statement of the Home Ministry official thus clearly points to still greater muscularity and hawkishness. What form these will take can be predicted fairly reliably: and already there is the example of the IB report on NGOs.

Given that the present Prime Minister‘s main visible election plank was his “development” line, we may expect state action against all those who can be said to stand in the way of this “development”. This word, again, is a catch-all which can be made to mean anything. Greenpeace has already been declared “a threat to national economic security” (http://www.ndtv. com/article/cheat-sheet/greenpeace-targeted-by-intelligence-bureau-again-10-developments-544131); and there is no reason to believe that the armies of the state in the mineral rich “tribal” areas will be withdrawn or made to stand down.

What of the Constitution of India, under which Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat and under which he is now Prime Minister of India? Let us first recall that this man was associated with the RSS since the age of eight, becoming a full-time pracharak in 1970, and that he has not renounced this association. Here is what the chief of the RSS said in August 2013: “‘Modi is the only person who has remained rooted in the RSS ideology,‘ Bhagwat told the group.” (http://www.caravanmagazine.in/reportage/rss-30)

The “sting” by Tehelka brought out with clarity the support that the gangs of marauders in Gujarat in 2002 had from the very top of that State‘s leadership. Babu Bajrangi said that he “felt like Rana Pratap” after killing many Muslims at Naroda Patiya, including women and children. Having done his work, he said, he told the Home Minister of the State over the telephone of the bodies to be collected. He described at length how Narendra Modi first found a safe refuge for him and later kept changing judges until one was found who co-operated.

Much is so clearly understood in these situations that words are unnecessary. Babu Bajrangi, Ramesh Dave and other stars of the Tehelka tapes say that Modi could not be explicit owing to his position—but also that they venerate him because he gave them three days to wreak bloody havoc. In 2002, Modi ruled over Gujarat: and a dozen years later, he rules over India. There is reason to think that many more Bajrangis will be born or will come out into the open in places other than Gujarat. Indeed, some of those very monsters killed young Mohsin Shaikh in Pune.

Prabhat Patnaik speaks of how the state has been brought under Hindutva control: “Indeed, the role of the State is precisely to ensure that individuals and entities, irrespective of the resources at their command, are protected against hooliganism... The Hindutva hooligans naturally feel emboldened that their day has arrived and that the State would henceforth turn a blind eye to their shenanigans.” (http://www.telegraphindia.com/1140617/jsp/opinion/story_18511809.jsp#.U6B-jC96tqI)

Patnaik spoke of a terrorised publisher, but Nivedita Menon is direct in a general way: “The street gangs of the Hindu Right have been in readiness for this moment when Their Man is PM for some years now.” (http://www.outlookindia. com/article/When-Are-Foreign-Funnds-Okay-/291077)

Then there is this perceptive observation from M.S.S. Pandian and Satyaki Roy: “Every time Modi insists that the events of 2002 be forgotten, he brings them back to life and reinforces them. The unstated message is, ‘We can do it.’” (http://www.epw.in/commentary/decisio nism-and-cult-narendra-modi.html) There is no need at all to be explicit. If no words are used in public, the courts will have nothing to act upon. This is why the crimes of 2002 are unpunished, and this will be the basis of further crimes against humanity.

While much that is wanted can be accom-plished by suppressing the Constitution, even after using it to climb to power, that is a hindrance which must be removed soon and replaced with something more suited to the mediaevalism of the new rulers.

“On January 4 [1993], Acharya Dharmendra, convenor of the Ram Janmabhoomi Mukti Samiti, demanded a fresh constituent assembly todraft a new constitution based on Hindu ethos. Earlier, two other prominent priests, Swami Muktanand and Acharya Vamdeo, circulated a 67-page document listing how the present Constitution was anti-Hindu.” (http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/while-senior-bjp-leaders-languish-in-prison-sadhus-hijack-partys-image-and-its-agenda/1/301601.html)

On December 25, 1992 (less than three weeks after the Babri Masjid was destroyed), the two holy characters had called a press conference at the house in Delhi of a BJP Member of Parliament. A week later they released the pamphlet in question, which said: “Westernised people unfamiliar with the culture and history of India are the creators of our Constitution.... This Constitution can be called a pile of garbage....” (quoted in A.G. Noorani, The RSS and the BJP: A Division of Labour)

Here is what Rajendra Singh “Rajjubhaiya”, who became the RSS chief in 1994, had said the previous year, echoing the pamphlet and Dharmendra: “A Constitution more suited to the ethos and genius of this country should be adopted in the future.” (Indian Express, January 14, 1993) None of his successors or followers has contradicted him in the years since then.

Modi said to his party people, in the Central Hall of Parliament after his electoral victory this year: “I salute... [the] makers of the Constitution of our country.” (The Hindu, May 21, 2014) He also said: “Various governments in the past tried to do some good work in their own way for which they deserve appreciation.”

What prevents Modi from saying, at any time now that he is in office, that as the previous governments were all right for their times, so the Constitution of India was all right for the past but now must be changed? It takes no genius to predict that soon enough this is what will happen. We have no reason to believe that the RSS has changed its view of the Constitution. It has been patient for long, and the time has now come for it to strike.

And what might we expect? “Golwalkar... held that Manu was the ‘first and greatest lawgiver of the world’, and suggested that the Manusmriti... should be the Constitution of Independent India!” (https://www.facebook.com/kavita.krishnan/posts/4987192879168) I fear that what the Manusmrti says about Shudras and women may well be used to circumscribe the rights of those two populations.

Her father protects (her) in childhood, her husband protects (her) in youth and her sons protect (her) in old age; a woman is never fit for independence.

A Shudra who insults a twice born man with gross invective, shall have his tongue cut out; for he is of low origin.

So much for the democratic nation for which many—not including the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha—fought for so long.

The author is a writer, editor and photographer.